Thursday, November 29, 2001
Mr. Bush declines to play
Can this be?
Official word comes from our nation's capital that some things are more urgent than and maybe you'd better sit down for this athletics.
On Tuesday, notice was given that certain government services take precedence over balls and bats and shoes with cleats and steroids and hockey pucks and figure skates and skulling and archery and table tennis and trampolines and boxing gloves and volleyballs and uneven parallel bars and skis and badminton racquets and, well, all the games people play.
As a resident of a city that has mortgaged its future to subsidize athletics and further plundered its resources in pursuit of the 2012 Olympics, I am more than casually interested.
President Bush has denied a request from the International Olympic Committee, which is accustomed to pretty much having its own way. Tuesday, Mr. Bush met with IOC president Jacques Rogge and confirmed what Secretary of State Colin Powell said earlier this month. U.S. military action in Afghanistan will continue during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in February.
You'd think maybe the IOC would be embarrassed to ask this of our president just now. But if its members were not embarrassed to add Ping-Pong and ballroom dancing to the roster of sports, I guess it's not surprising that the IOC would publicly wonder if we'd mind taking a time out in honor of ice skating and bobsledding.
Mr. Bush likes to describe himself as focused. And even though he threw a heck of a pitch to open the World Series in New York City and even though he made his bones as a baseball owner, he appears to be focused on the deaths of thousands of Americans and the prevention of further slaughter.
Since Sept. 11, he has allocated an additional $34.4 million to the $200 million Olympic security budget to help protect the Salt Lake Games from potential attack. The military commitment to the Winter Games, including National Guard members to help with security, is about 7,000 men and women, according to USA Today.
That would seem to be tribute enough to the Olympic effort.
And has anybody at IOC noticed that the enemy might not abide by the half-time whistle? Imagine Bin Laden Inc. furloughing his remaining employees in deference to luge races.
Of course, there's historic precedent to the request for a truce. Warring nations suspended fighting during the Games in ancient Greece. This was before the Games became a sports venue and official merchandise mart. And since 1993, it has become a tradition for the host country to submit an Olympic truce resolution to the United Nations.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters a resolution will be submitted to the United Nations on Dec. 11 advocating safe passage of Olympic athletes and peaceful competition by nations.
This has nothing to do with a truce, he said. This is something that goes back actually to millenniums in terms of granting athletes safe passage, and of course the president will be pleased to help get that done.
So, the commander in chief has agreed to be a good sport, but refused to put athletics or an empty symbol ahead of our young people who are holding weapons in their hands instead of hockey sticks.
E-mail Laura at email@example.com or call 768-8393.
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